September 29, 2008

Come on and save me.

add to kirtsy

In a way it was appropriate that we were eating at a restaurant that used to house fire trucks and the like and where people who saved lives on a regular basis used to reside. I was feeling a little like I needed saving. My bank had just been seized by the federales and I was (and still am) so over my head in projects that I have volunteered for that I was practically hyperventilating as regularly as I drink Diet Coke. (That's a lot.)

Me and a few of my friends met up at Firehouse, a newish upscale pizza/Italian restaurant in NE Portland to eat dinner, take a break from work and discuss the downturn of the economy. Hmmm. It smelled good - Brick Oven fired pizza. That was what I wanted.

But my pizza plans went out the window as I stared at the menu. I asked the waitress what her favorite appetizer was. Before I even finished my question, she said the beet greens bruschetta was her favorite, hands down. Beet greens on top of tangy goat cheese on a big hunk of toasted bread. Yeah. It was not only delicious, it was memorable like a surprise visit from a friend that I haven't seen in a really really long time. I must figure out how they make it. I've been thinking about it ever since then.

The roasted chicken was delicious as well - very flavorful and crispy. My friend let me have a bit of her pizza with fennel sausage - house made fennel sausage. Sweet and licorice-y and salty. Only a few pieces atop a thin crust with tomato sauce and mozzarella. A bite of happiness, to be sure.

Oh yes. I almost forgot. I had dessert. Apple and fig crisp with buttermilk sorbet. Not too sweet, tangy, cold sorbet over fresh, sweet, crisp apples, figs and buttery topping. Lovely fall crunch.

I was so tired when we were done eating. Tired enough to go home and go to bed. Where I slept so well, without the interruptions of bad dreams or stress.

The antique firemen on the wall at Firehouse are still useful - they saved me from my own thoughts and a likely night of nachos.

Firehouse on Urbanspoon

September 27, 2008

A few tears.

add to kirtsy

Paul Newman was one of my very first crushes. Exodus was my favorite movie, romantic, dramatic and tragic. Then I saw Absence of Malice, which got me hooked on journalism movies and gave me my first desire to be a reporter and a writer, before I saw All The President's Men.

As chance would have it, just last night, I bought some Paul Newman Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Must have been a sign.

A truly great actor, a charitable force to be reckoned with, and long-married to the same woman, in Hollywood - he deserves more than an Oscar. He's probably getting some kind of angel award right now. Maybe wings. I just heard a bell ring.

Thanks, Paul Newman. You are beautiful.

September 26, 2008

I'm so excited.

add to kirtsy

Really. So excited that I'm in a tizzy and must tell you about these STELLAR upcoming events:

Viva La Comunidad!
October 2, 7-10 pm, Wonder Ballroom

A Salsa Concert and Tamale Sampler in support of Hacienda CDC.
This will be so much fun! Please come and support this terrific organization.

October 4, 7:30 - 10 pm, Design Within Reach
Write Around Portland's annual benefit
Food, music, cocktails, a silent auction, word games and hello, you are helping one of the coolest organizations ever. Do I really need to tell you AGAIN???

Please get out and support these organizations. They change lives! You can too.

September 25, 2008

It Seems I Need Some Chocolate

add to kirtsy

As the weather gets colder, the gas bill gets higher and our country gets closer to... well... some pretty entertaining debates, I find myself in need of both heat and comfort. Better than a flannel blanket, better than a warm fire, better than a hug from someone that you don't really know that well - chocolate + chiles.

As luck would have it, I stumbled across two GREAT sources of this magical combination:

Dagoba Xocolatl Hot Chocolate with Chile and Cinnamon (available at Zupan's) - and you make it with milk, so it's creamy and spicy, and hot and comforting without the over sugary sweetness of Swiss Miss. Not that there's anything wrong with the little Miss. She's just not my preference.

Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Covered Chile Spiced Dried Mango - sweet and chocolate-y with a kick. Not the kind of chocolate you devour in one sitting, but the kind that you eat slowly over several days, to elevate the general mood of your life (totally works). (Available at Trader Joe's, in case it wasn't obvious.)

Love. It.

September 22, 2008

Thank Heavens I Burned My Diaries

add to kirtsy

I went to a Mortified show this past weekend. It was hilarious. Real people reading from their real teenage diaries - truly natural humor. Only one of them seemed bitter. She was so bitter that she wasn't funny. But the other 5 or so readers were a kick in the pants.

I especially liked the girl who spliced her boyfriend's voice mails into George Michael's I Want Your Sex. Oh and the girl who was an exchange student and wrote one diary for her exchange program (We went sight seeing today and it was fun!) and one diary for herself (My host brother is so hot!)

I believe they said that they have an upcoming show in November, but it's not listed on their website yet. Keep an eye open, though - you won't want to miss a chance to reminisce about braces, first kisses and acne.

September 17, 2008

Givin' back the love.

add to kirtsy

A few of my favorite Portland food blogs:

LadyConcierge - restaurant reviews and some great recipes
LemonBasil - diary of a locavore with beautiful, saliva-inducing photographs
Breakfast in Bridgetown - where I go to find good breakfast
Bake and Shake - wit, humor and some damn fine cooking
Guilty Carnivore - funny, political, food and efficient use of words

Check them out and become their fans. You'll have better dreams and better meals. YUMMM.

September 15, 2008

The Unveiling of the New Tuna

add to kirtsy

Tuna smells bad. I've seen it clear out a lunchroom and induce gagging in the kitchen. I've seen people look at it with their best "Ewwwwww.... " faces. None of that changes the fact that I have a little crush on Tuna. It's the protein, the salty, savory complement to really good mayonnaise, mixed with crunchy dill pickle and onion, or mixed with pasta and cheese in a totally comforting form of casserole. Tuna, though he may not have a pleasant scent, is good for your heart. Omega-3 Fatty Acids. See. He likes you. Now it is my mission to make YOU like HIM. He's a whole new... fish. Now close your eyes, open your mouth, and taste this:

Tuna, Goat Cheese and Spinach Fettuccine

Olive oil
1/2 of a medium sweet onion, sliced
2 cloves of garlic, sliced
8-10 fresh Roma tomatoes, chopped
Kosher salt
Fresh ground pepper
1 can of tuna packed in water
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup frozen spinach, thawed
4 oz. plain goat cheese
8 oz. fettuccine, uncooked
1/4 cup pasta water, reserved

Cook fettuccine according to the instructions on the packaging. Be sure to add a generous amount of salt to the water.

Meanwhile, coat the bottom of a saute pan with olive oil and heat on medium heat until just smoking. Add the onions and garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Saute onions and garlic until they have caramelized to a golden brown.

Season the tomatoes with salt and pepper and then add them to the saute pan. Cook until the tomatoes are broken down, about 10 minutes.

Add the tuna and the spinach, simmering until some of the liquid from the tomatoes and spinach have reduced, about 10 minutes. Add the Parmesan cheese.

When the pasta is cooked al dente, fish it all out of the pasta water and drop it directly into the saute pan with the tuna mixture. Add about 1/4 cup of pasta water and let the pasta and the the sauteed mixture get to know each other for about 5 minutes.

Turn off the heat on the stove and add in the goat cheese and one teaspoon of fresh ground pepper. Gently toss together until all the noodles are coated.

Serves about 4.

See? Now what did I tell you. I knew you would like him!

It's Time

add to kirtsy

I've sort of been too intimidated by all the totally amazing cooking blogs to post about my own cooking. Some of these blogs have crisp photos. Some of them have riveting descriptions of their food and the stories behind their creations. Me? I just have my camera in my phone and an insatiable desire to cook. All the time. Cook good, luscious, sensual food. Food that inspires marriage proposals. (I got one once. When I served caramelized onion mashed potatoes at a potluck.) Food that soothes and comforts and brings joy. Food that is better and more beautiful than the last time I made it.

I've decided to try this a little and see how it goes. I'm going to try different styles of food and writing and see what I'm most comfortable with. I'm not out to win any contests, just to express my love for cooking. So. Bear with me, okay? Here goes nothing.

September 14, 2008

You should totally help out.

add to kirtsy

I am helping out with Wordstock this year. You should too. It will be really cool. Volunteer sign-ups are here.

If you don't know about Wordstock, read my post from last year about Wordstock, or visit their website.

Dining with Alfred

add to kirtsy

I'm having a dinner party this coming weekend. It will involve dismemberment, stalking, voyeurism and of course some excellent cuisine. We're watching the Alfred Hitchcock masterpiece from 1954, Rear Window. Everyone is bringing something that relates to the movie.

I thought chicken wings would be good, dismembered from a chicken. One of my friends thought that he would bring pigs in a blanket, as a nod to James Stewart being in a cast the whole movie. For the main course, I am going to make marinated flank steak and mashed potatoes, a twist on Alfred Hitchcock's favorite meal. Of course, anything served in a hat box would be appropriate.

Do you have any favorite movie/food pairings?

The lengths to which some people will go to get plastic surgery...

add to kirtsy

I saw Burn After Reading this weekend. Here's my character summary:

Brad Pitt is awesome and hilarious.

Francis McDormand is neurotic and ridiculous.

George Clooney is obsessive and wimpy.

Tilda Swinton is a bitch.

John Malkovich is a freaky, scary loser.

And that about sums it up. If you like the Coen Brothers, you will probably like this movie. I thought it was GREAT.

September 7, 2008

MFNW Day #4: Mimicking Birds, Blitzen Trapper and Fleet Foxes

add to kirtsy

I can't believe I did it. I went to Musicfest NW 4 days in a row. I am officially music-ed out. But I'd say that we saw some pretty great shows. And last night was no exception.

We went to the Crystal Ballroom again. Mimicking Birds were playing when we got there. They were good, catchy and I quite enjoyed it. They were rather mellow - which was good for the mood I was in. I would definitely go see them again.

Then came Blitzen Trapper was some serious rock. The bench that I was sitting on became a massage chair of sorts as the vibrations from the bass and the percussion ran up and down my back.

Luckily, Mimicking Birds and Blitzen Trapper are both from Portland, and I'm looking forward to seeing them perform longer sets so I can get to know them more.

Verdict: Definitely.

I heard a bunch of buzz about Fleet Foxes just a couple of days before the show last night, though I had never heard their music before. Everyone said they are amazing. But they were better than that. The harmony and quality of sound was really really good. Their music was complex and rich and one of the few bands I saw this week that I would purchase an album from without hearing more. I'm pretty sure their album is going to rock.

Verdict: Can't wait to hear more!

We were too tired to stick around for Menomena and Helio Sequence. I've heard Menomena before and they are pretty good. Helio Sequence - haven't seen them. I'll have to check them out next time they're in town.

It's been quite a busy week. I've enjoyed getting to know more music and hearing some new stuff. I've loved the people watching and the bartender at the Crystal, who always put two limes in my diet Coke instead of the usual one.

September 5, 2008

MFNW Day #3: Lackthereof, John Vanderslice, and Vampire Weekend

add to kirtsy

I am getting tired. The sound of silence is sweet at this late hour. I'm not sure, but I think I am getting burned out on live music on this the third day of my musical venture into Musicfest NW! At this moment, if I hear one more note of music, I might throw up.

I arrived at the Crystal Ballroom shortly after 8 tonight. We got in and got our seats in the back corner of the 21+ side. Thank heavens. For the next two hours, I zoned out. I had earplugs to dull the bleeding in my ears. (Please don't be alarmed. There wasn't actual blood. That I could see anyway.)

I wish I could give you a review of the first two bands (Lackthereof and John Vanderslice). But I can't really remember them. Except that they were both really loud. And I didn't really care about either one.

Verdict: Your guess is as good as mine.

By the time Vampire Weekend came on, I was ready for bed. Why does music wear me out so terribly? Perhaps it's the compulsion to stay up late and blog about it three nights in a row. Hmmm. That might be it.

I woke up though as they started singing. Don't laugh, but from where I was standing, I swear when the drummer smiled I could see a sparkle coming from his teeth. Like in an Orbit gum commercial. That was enjoyable, even if it was an illusion.

Vampire Weekend's music can only be described by words ending in y, like happy or poppy. Right as they started playing their last song, Ansley turned to me and said with a smile: "I like this song. But it has swears in it!" Oh that makes me like it even better, I thought to myself. It was called Oxford Comma. I've since read the lyrics. And I like it very much. Very much indeed. I do love a smartie with a guitar.

Verdict: Gimme more.

Tomorrow: Can't really fathom spending another evening at the Crystal, though that's what the plans are, to see Menomena, Fleet Foxes and The Helio Sequence. Some part of me, though, wants to park it at the Doug Fir all night and listen to the mellow music of Weinland, Matt Sheehy and Loch Lomond. That sounds nice.

September 4, 2008

MFNW Day #2: Crystal Ballroom - Eskimo and Sons, Calvin Johnson and M Ward

add to kirtsy

When going to the Crystal Ballroom for a concert, it is necessary, if you love your feet, to get there early and snag a seat on the benches in the back corner, right under the air vent. But now I shouldn't have told you that. I'll have to fight you for it when I'm there next.

Since the Crystal Ballroom was an all ages show tonight, it was sure to be crowded, so we got there early, when Eskimo and Sons was playing. They were happy and loud and grateful to the crowd. Also enthusiastic about their music: "We're going to jam on this shit so hard!" They are also apparently breaking up the band and this was one of their last shows. ("We are never ever ever playing this song again!") They have one more show on Saturday at the Towne Lounge. Go. They were delightful. And drunk.

Verdict: So glad I heard them, sad I won't hear them again.

Calvin Johnson
was next. He had a good strong voice, but it was so noisy that I couldn't really make out what he was saying or singing and I could barely hear the guitar. He sounded like my brother does when he breaks out into song in the car. I did catch that he said he was from Olympia, which is where I grew up. Wikipedia said that he is one of the major figures of the Olympia indie rock scene. I could have known who he was if I hadn't been sequestered in my house listening to Whitney Houston and Broadway musicals in the late 80s. But that's neither here nor there. I didn't really like him when he started playing. I perked up when I started hearing some good strong music and I turned to Ansley and said, "Now we're talking - I like this." Then I looked up on stage and realized that he wasn't playing anymore. It was the music between bands coming over the speakers.

Verdict: Maybe in a small bar, over some drinks and fries, but not in the Crystal Ballroom.

Let's play a word association game. M Ward. Rich. Sweet. Maple Sugar Candy. Melted and poured on my head. Entrancing. Deep. Lovely. Baseball hat. Cool shirt. Genius. Entertaining. Pleasant.

This show rocked. The crowd yelled and stomped and clapped when he said, "Hello Portland. It's good to be home." I love that. I love when I'm at home with an artist in Portland. What can be better than that. This was the best I've seen in a long time. It was mellow and rich, then upbeat and complex. Entertaining at all levels. I could have listened to him forever. In fact, it's time for bed and I think I'll just pop on one of his albums to fall asleep to. I want to dream about the magic voice.

Verdict: Hell yes. The best.

Tomorrow: Vampire Weekend at the Crystal again. Don't even think about stealing my seat.

September 3, 2008

MFNW Day #1: Berbati's Pan - The 1900s and Norfolk and Western

add to kirtsy

I bought a wristband to MusicFest NW this year. That means that I have to go to every possible show to get my $50 worth. And you can bet that I will. By the time I get to Sunday, I'll be beat.

Walking to Berbati's Pan tonight, some guy said to us, "How you doin, sexy?" And funny, the lead singer girl for the 1900s sang like she was responding to that comment for the whole 40 minutes of their set. She looked like Bess Armstrong and sang and played the tambourine with the same intensity as the lead guy singer, whose jaw clenched as he sang, his head shaking and spitting the words out. They are from Chicago and it sounded like this was their first time to Portland. "You live in a really nice city," said the lead girl, "Everyone smells like pot."

Verdict: Yay

Norfolk and Western came on next. I haven't seen them before. My first impression was: Well aren't they adorable Portlandy people. Cool glasses, funky shirts, drummer girl in cool skirt. The one guitar guy with the glasses looked like it was the easiest thing in the world to play the guitar. He had a kind of "laaaa la laaaah" look to him, like "laaa la laaaah, I'm just strumming along because I do this every single day and I quite like it." They were mellow at first, then they really rocked out, although the la-la guy still looked like he was strolling along.

Verdict: Yay

Tomorrow: We'll attempt to attend M.Ward's show at the Crystal Ballroom, with Berbati's Pan as our backup plan - Port O'Brien is playing!

Glamping in Goldendale

add to kirtsy

Before I left for Goldendale on Saturday, I was telling my roommate Ansley how I really like sleeping on a mattress and I like showering and using a real bathroom. I don't mind the fresh air, it's just that I like to be comfortable while I'm breathing it in.

"Glamping. You know, glamorous camping. That's what you want to do," she said. Yes. That's it! I want to glamp. I felt better knowing that there was a term for it.

I was nervous, knowing that my brother's standards for comfort are quite different from mine. But when I got to his place, it was not as bad as I had imagined. He and his girlfriend Audrey had planted lots of flowers and plants and a huge garden. It looked homey and somewhat familiar.

As I stepped out of my car, I almost expected Michael Landon to come walking out the front door. "Hello, half-pint!" He would say. And then we would go inside and he would pull out his fiddle and we would all dance.

It actually wasn't that much different from that. We walked inside and Michael (my brother, not the dead actor) built a fire in the woodstove. He turned on his iPod and started dancing in the little room while he made tea and hot chocolate for me and Audrey.

We climbed the ladder to the loft and played Trionimos and told stories. It was quite pleasant. I tried not to drink much, since any trips to the outhouse in the middle of the night would involve climbing down a ladder and putting on my shoes. That seemed a little treacherous in half-asleep mode. I waited until 6 am before I tried that. I needed sunlight.

The toilet was not as bad as I imagined. It was housed in a wooden structure outside, in the same building as the shower. It was a chemical toilet from some outdoorsy store and did not stink. On the door was tacked a picturesque postcard in a Ziplock bag, a fine diversion for the brain when you start thinking: Am I sitting in an OUTHOUSE?

The shower on the other side of the building looked almost exactly like Nellie Forbush's shower in South Pacific. In the morning when I got up, Michael asked me if I wanted a shower. "We can heat up the water now, or you can wait until this afternoon when the sun heats the water. Up to you." I wanted to be adventurous and try the outdoor shower in a metal tub with a ladle to pour the hot water on my head, but I wasn't quite up to it. I can skip for one day. It won't kill me.

By 9:00, Audrey and Michael had made homemade zucchini bread in their toaster oven, with fresh whipped cream, (whipped by hand!), hot chocolate and a really yummy Mexican dish with tortillas, eggs and a red chili sauce. Seriously, these two are amazing cooks - and they do it all without indoor plumbing. And this is how they live ALL THE TIME.

Anyhow, we had a delightful time. I even slept on a hide-a-bed that they have up in their loft. We watched movies and had delicious food and talked late while the fire burned out at night.

I like glamping. It is not nearly as bad as camping. And although I wouldn't want to do it every day, it's a nice vacation from reality, computers and beeping alarm clocks.

September 2, 2008

I Heart Steak

add to kirtsy

I'm no camper. Or really outdoorsy at all. My idea of camping is sleeping with my bedroom window open. So when I was talking to my brother a couple of weeks ago and he asked when I was going to visit him in his little cabin-like dwelling with no plumbing up in Goldendale, Washington, I wanted to come up with an excuse. But I heard myself telling him that I would be up over Labor Day weekend. I wanted to slap myself for committing to something like that, knowing that I was going to be miserable with no shower, toilet or mattress.

We made a deal that they would take me to their favorite restaurant in Goldendale, or thereabouts, if I came to visit. So, we planned to meet up on Saturday night at Huntington's Bar in Klickitat. I got there really fast - in an hour and a half - and they were running late, so I had some time to settle in and check out my surroundings.

The waitress, in a green t-shirt that said "Huntington's Bar" on it and denim shorts, showed me to a booth. I told her I just wanted water, so she brought me a glass and poured the water out of an old plastic milk jug. I looked around on the walls, papered with pictures of men in sleeveless shirts and long ponytails, holding up giant fish in triumphant poses, with captions like "Single Sexy Sizzling".

I looked up at the ceiling. It was covered in black Sharpie writing, from end to end. "Lance loves Kristi for life", "Darin Weaver kicks ass", "Dirty Dave was here with Jeff", and other such things that are fun to write on walls and ceilings. Lots of "____ was here", and "_____ has a big ____" and some disturbing poems written in what one can only hope was a drunken stupor.

"Don't look too close," the waitress said laughing a little and tossing her permed, brassy, blonde hair as she saw me crane my neck a bit to read something that I wish I hadn't. I distracted myself by ordering and consuming an order of greasy, soggily breaded mozzarella sticks, just one of the many fried offerings at Huntington's.

On the menu it says "Home of the Biggest Best Steaks in the Gorge." I was skeptical. It was the milk jug and the mozzarella sticks feeding my doubt. When Michael and Audrey finally arrived I was ready to satisfy my curiosity and skepticism. I ordered a 12 oz. New York Strip Steak - I just had to taste their tagline. Michael ordered the seafood platter, which was basically everything in the sea battered and deep fried served with fries. Audrey ordered catfish - grilled and served with rice. She was the healthy one.

We chatted and caught up. It seemed like forever. The waitress occasionally filled our glasses with ice from a scoop that she filled at the bar, walking with both the full scoop and the milk jug in her hands over to our table. It seems like that would be a good obstacle course game.

Our food finally arrived. I was pleasantly surprised. My steak was really good. It was cooked medium-rare, just like I cook them at home. The baked potato was not over cooked and the peas were sweet and fresh. The seafood platter and catfish proved tasty as well.

The place was getting packed the later it got and the waitress was working hard for her money. There was only one chef, I think, which must be why our food took so long. It was worth it, though. The steak was perfect.

I haven't been to all the restaurants in the Gorge to see if Huntington's has the best and biggest steaks, but I see a restaurant road trip in my future and perhaps that will be something I can research. I'm willing to taste a few steaks. If I have to.

Huntington's Bar
95 Main St.
Klickitat, WA